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Four in 10 New Zealand employees surveyed are unaware of company security policies

Posted on 6-Nov-2012 13:35 | Filed under: News

The 2012 New Zealand “Consumerisation of IT” research into enterprise mobility, commissioned by Unisys and conducted by Forrester Consulting1, reveals that while most Kiwi organisations are implementing some security measures related to smartphones and tablets in the workplace, many are not enforcing them consistently, even as they report that security is their top concern related to mobile devices.

The vast majority (80 percent) of New Zealand organisations surveyed reported that security continues to be of great concern when allowing employees to access business data via a smartphone or tablet in the workplace. This rate is much higher than the global average of 56 percent of organisations.

For example, 73 percent of surveyed New Zealand organisations cite implementing or improving mobile security as being a top priority in the next year. The majority of respondents – 67 percent – say that their focus will be on deploying password-based authentication for mobile users.

However, fewer are considering more sophisticated security measures: Only 37 percent are considering token-based authentication, and 10 percent are considering biometric-based authentication. Interestingly, New Zealand organisations are more likely than the global average (22 percent) to consider token-based authentication, but less likely than the global average (19 percent) to consider biometrics.

“Most organisations are relying on passwords, a relatively primitive solution, to secure their mobile devices and applications,” said John Kendall, Security Program Director, Unisys Asia Pacific. “A truly effective security approach requires a combination of strong policy and technology as well as the means to enforce both.

“The risk of a data breach via compromised passwords is higher in a mobile environment because mobile devices can be easily lost or stolen. Unisys recommends that organisations consider multifactor authentication, where the employee is identified not only by ‘what they know’ (a PIN or password) but also by ‘who they are’ (a biometric such as a fingerprint or face scan) to protect sensitive assets,” Mr Kendall said.

Security policies are only effective if employees adhere to them. The research found that almost 90 percent of New Zealand organisations have security policies in place, yet nearly half of them admit that they lack the tools to implement or enforce security policies.

At the same time, 59 percent of surveyed employees say they are aware of their company’s security policy, leaving 41 percent who are not. Those uninformed workers could unintentionally breach company security policies. In addition, 6 percent of Kiwi employees say they sometimes ignore or work around their company’s security policies.

The research also exposes a potential security risk in the recent phenomenon of employees using BYO apps: almost a quarter (24 percent) of New Zealand employees admit they have downloaded unauthorised mobile apps or PC software for work. Employees surveyed in Australia, on the other hand, are almost twice as likely to do that (42 percent).

“BYO apps bring a two-fold security risk, sometimes easily downloadable apps can be malicious vehicles for network breaches and data theft. To avoid negative consequences of employees’ using unauthorised software, organisations can create a company ‘app store’ that contains approved, secure software – either developed internally or purchased from a third party – to safely provide employees with the capabilities they need to do their work productively,” Mr Kendall said.

Mr Kendall also suggested that rather than rely solely on controlling access to data, organisations should consider securing the data itself via encryption. “That way even if the wrong people gain access to where the data resides, they still can’t read the data,” he said.

“The good news is that today’s mobile world is necessitating – and enabling – sophisticated new approaches to security. For example, attribute-based access control is an emerging technology that grants access based not only on the nature of the data and the individual requesting access. It also factors in the location from which access is being requested and the method used to authenticate identity – for example, requiring a fingerprint rather than a password for access to more sensitive information.

“Attribute-based access control also identifies anything about the access request outside the employee’s normal pattern, such as attempts to access information they don’t normally access or at hours outside their normal work schedule. Such approaches help stop data breaches before they happen by automatically enforcing appropriate security measures,” Mr Kendall explained.